An Ethical Vacuum Mousetrap?

An Ethical Vacuum Mousetrap?

User Alan Perekh posted this on the Hacked Gadgets forum. He baited the business end of his Shop Vac with some peanut butter, and plugged into an IR motion sensor. Whenever a mouse comes by to check it out, the sensor is triggered and the little rodent gets sucked into the vacuum, presumably for remote release.

The idea is certainly novel, but is it ethical? The mouse appears unharmed in the holding container of the vacuum, but I wonder if these results can be reliably duplicated. Have an opinion? Share it in the comments section.


92 thoughts on “An Ethical Vacuum Mousetrap?

  1. Tim says:

    It seems like being dragged through the hose and slammed against the inside of the bucket could cause damage to the mouse. Also, if you don’t load the vacuum up with mouse food you’ll need to check it regularly or you’ll starve your guest. On the other hand, it’s a lot better than most available mouse traps. Glue and spring traps are pretty nasty.

    1. Pierce Nichols says:

      Since you still have to kill the mouse (relocating vermin is illegal in most jurisdictions and unethical everywhere), it’s best to do so quickly and humanely. A snap trap has this property… the vacuum trap not so much.,

  2. Bob says:

    Your view of what’s ethical tends to change when you find mouse poop in your kitchen cabinets or on your bedsheets.

  3. textmex says:

    bob….right….we used to put a small wood block (with peanut butter on it) to float in a bucket of water…the mouse jumps in to get the snack and drowns….no need to feed the mouse…

  4. Guillaume Filion says:

    I’m pretty sure that if you leave many mice in the same confine space for a long time they’ll fight each other to death, so it’s not very ethical if you ask me.

    Maybe a more ethical system could just vacuum the mouse outside?

    1. Pete Prodoehl says:

      Guillaume, the problem with just shooting the outside the house is, they’ve probably got a way back in… of course if they enjoy the vacuum ride, it might be a good activity to keep them busy.

    2. Huck says:

      If you leave mice out in nature they’ll also fight each other to the death. So nature is unethical? Should god be tried in the Hague?

    3. Pierce Nichols says:

      Relocating vermin, such as mice, is far more unethical than just killing them quickly and humanely (as with a snap trap).

  5. Mike says:

    I find this story pretty funny. Just yesterday my wife discovered a mouse in our pantry and I used our shop vac to capture the critter. My son and I successfully released the mouse, far away from our house, with no signs of injury.

  6. Al Roderick says:

    I saw on Dirty Jobs, they use big truck-sized shop vacuums to clear out prairie dog burrows. Catches them alive and unharmed. Mice have such a low body mass that they can survive falls that would kill a human, they’ll come through this fine so long as you check it often.

  7. Stephen says:

    Combine this with the Death Coaster, or use it to load a “potato cannon” sized for mice. Hey that reminds me of changing irrigation sprinklers with my dad. The irrigation sections are 3″ aluminum pipe 20′ to 40′ or so long with sprinkler heads every so often. sometimes gophers run into the pipe and when you apply pressure they get pushed into the much smaller 1/2″ pipe that the sprinkler head attaches to. When that happens you remove the sprinkler head and turn the water back on. This turns the gopher inside out and blast him 30 feet or so in the air. It adds a little excitement to an otherwise wet and repetitive job.

  8. Huck says:

    Ethical and natural: a cat! (or snake if you’re that kind of person)

  9. Jim Sky says:

    Much more ethical than most alternatives. I once built a trap with an 8000v neon sign transformer. Mouse carbonized then caught fire. The trap melted and left a huge charred area of flooring. Could have burned my house down. Make sure you overkill mousetraps don’t kill you!

  10. Hank says:

    Really? This topic is not worth the time for MAKE’s readership.

    1. zof says:

      Yea its funny how makers have no time for ethics…. whoops just realized this is a site for makers hmmm, maybe you mistook this for a site only for mad scientists?

      Also on the topic, anything that does less harm then other methods currently in use would in my opinion be better on the ethical side, unless you turn all the captured mice lose on your neighbors grain storage…

      1. Pierce Nichols says:

        It is unethical to relocate vermin. You still have to kill the mouse.

  11. Justin Blair says:

    Not to criticize but you might want to consider the mouse poop in the bottom (or that’s what it looks like in the picture) could blow Haunta Virus around your house while it sucks in another mouse. Pretty cool idea though if one needed to collect mice for some reason. I suppose some evil exterminator could use one of these to catch mice and release them into clients homes to make some repeat customers…

  12. Alan Dove says:

    Sigh. Once again, for those who keep missing the memo: use a quick-killing trap for mice. These “save the mouse for release” ideas are all very clever, but the house mouse is just that – a mouse that’s fully adapted its lifestyle to human houses. Release it anywhere near your house and it’ll come right back in. Release it someplace far away and it’ll go into someone else’s house. Release it really, really far from any houses and it’ll be killed in some horrifically cruel manner by another animal. Meanwhile, the additional handling involved in live release will expose you and your family to all of the nasty diseases and parasites these cute, fuzzy little critters are loaded with.

    A properly prepared spring trap will snap the animal’s neck instantly, which is far more humane than any of the other possible endings for a house mouse. Try the D-Con covered traps, which only allow the mouse to enter one way, and in my experience kill with a neck snap 100% of the time. The only thing a mouse in that kind of trap experiences is a few seconds of munching on a delicious lump of peanut butter. Then everything goes dark.

  13. Pierce Nichols says:

    Relocation of vermin (mice, rats, raccoons, etc) is deeply unethical and illegal in most jurisdictions. All you have done is make someone else’s disease carrying pest problem that much worse. Therefore, you still have to kill the mouse, one way or another. A snap trap is fast, efficient, and humane.

    1. Bill Bumgarner (@bbum) says:

      What Pierce said.

      Relocation of *any* wild animal is a Very Bad Idea and often illegal. For quite a number of reasons:

      – doing so may spread disease (often, a critter that is caught was addled enough by illness to not be fast/smart enough to avoid the trap)

      – it moves the problem from (a) to (b)

      – it can tip the balance in the destination location; causing a population spike and/or collapse

      If you really don’t want to kill vermin, then clean and organize to minimize the desirability of your location to said vermin.

      Beyond that; either live with it (ewww) or kill them as quickly as you can.

  14. rahere says:

    Try telling the Australians you’re releasing mice. That Thou Shalt Not Kill is a mistranslation, so your ethics are screwed from the start – I’ll leave it to you to research what the original said.

  15. John Bramfeld says:

    What a wonderful moniker “ethical” is. You get to feel superior to all of the unethical neanderthals who value their family and their neighbor’s family more than vermin. Peta originated this novel use of the word. They are not similarly inclined towards humans.

    1. Pierce Nichols says:

      Relocating a mouse you catch in your house is functionally equivalent to putting it in someone else’s house. Are you really arguing that’s an ethical course of action?

      1. Thebes says:

        Because there are houses in every square mile of the nation, right?
        And because there are no rodents in the wilderness, right?

        While I can’t say I’d go out of my way to relocate a rodent, in many cases its utter bs to say it “is functionally equivalent to putting it in someone else’s house”. I would be very surprised if more than a percent of the rodents in my state lived in someone’s house.

      2. jebu5 says:

        Relocating a house you catch in your mouse is functionally difficult and putting it in someone else’s spouse is arguiably an unethical course of action?

  16. MKL says:

    could always substitute the shopvac for a leaf blower in vac mode. Not much chance of a slow death there…

  17. Pete Prodoehl says:

    The bigger question is, can we build a bigger one to trap those annoying people who get into your house and won’t leave…

  18. jamesbx says:

    The ethical solution is quite obvious, really. The interior of the shop vac should be lined with cedar shavings to cushion the impact. Then mouse scale furniture is added so the mouse has a place to sit and watch the 2″ LCD TV (Tom and Jerry only) that is added. While not as good as a real refrigerator, a false front with a water bottle will suffice to keep our little buddy hydrated. And he will need it after a good run on his IR activated exercise treadmill.

    1. Michael Colombo says:

      That response almost made me spew my coffee. Brilliant :)

  19. Madness says:

    Pierce, we get it you’ve said it half a dozen times that you believe it is unethical to relocate vermin. Then isn’t killing them just as unethical? Maybe you live in the big city where there really isn’t a good place to relocate them to. I have live-catch traps, and I take them out to a field just outside of town and let them go. They belong in the wild, not in my house. The only alternative would be to bulldoze my house to return it to their natural environment, I’d rather just take them to the equivalent. Relocating a pest (“vermin”) a mile away just outside of town is much different than relocating typical wildlife. I’d kill them, but I just don’t like killing any animals when I can relocate them to the wild when they are IN MY HOUSE.

    And yes, some snake or eagle or hawk will probably eat it. But that’s cool. Circle of life and all that.

    And “often, a critter that is caught was addled enough by illness to not be fast/smart enough to avoid the trap)” Are you serious? Mice in a house just want the most available source of food. Peanut butter in the open is quite available.

    I thought the readership of this blog would be fairly intelligent, but some of these responses are really disappointing. One thing’s for sure, if I see a mouse running around I’ll go and pull out my shop vac next time. That’s a wonderful idea in my book.

    1. Pierce Nichols says:

      The mice you find in your house don’t belong in the wild — they are adapted to live in human houses and survive on food dropped by humans. What that means is that when you drop them in a field, the first thing they will do is try to find the habitat they’re adapted for — a human house. That means that when you drop them in that field, you might as well drop them through the mail slot of the nearest house.

      I don’t know about you, but I consider giving someone else a disease-carrying pest to be extraordinarily unethical behavior.

      NB: Most temperate climates have multiple species of rats and mice that do live in forests and fields. You know where you don’t find those species? In your house.

      1. zof says:

        Again you are referring to urban rats and mice, what about those of us that don’t live with in 5 feet of our neighbor? Hell there is a giant desert field right in front of my house, and the same mice I’ve seen in my garage are the ones I’ve seen in the fields heck I caught a coyote in my drive way, maybe this was a special adapted coyote that only lives in driveways… Don’t assume everyone lives the same way as you I could safely catch mice and on my drive into work in the morning release on the way considering in parts there areas with no houses or farms around for over two miles. I’d much rather release it this way as I know some hungry snake in the desert might eat good that day.

  20. Gronkie says:

    I had a friend who discovered a small beehive in the wall of his house, with the exit hole near his window. He had heard that nearly every bee will leave and return to the hive in the course of a day so he propped his shop vac with the hose end near the hole and switched it on. Now and then he’d spray some bug spray into the hose. Bu the end of the day the shop vac was about 1/3 full of dead bees and he never had any more trouble.

    Having had to fight mouses with traps and seeing at least one get horribly maimed but not killed in the process, I am all for a more humane way to do it. This seems okay as long as the “trap” is checked daily. Of course, then you’ve got to figure out what to do with those that you catch. We just ended up getting a cat, but the feline method of dispatching mice is like a horror movie and better off not contemplated.

  21. ManOfStone says:

    Geez. You guys. So close to the problem – missing the OBVIOUS.

    It’s a SHOP VAC – put enough water in it to DROWN the mouse.

    All done. : ]

    1. Pierce Nichols says:

      That seems less humane than a snap trap. I don’t hate mice that much. :)

  22. Ooontini says:

    I have something like that.

    Only it’s on my sandcrawler. We use it for stray droids.

  23. jebu5 says:

    Lol, love the troll Pierce’s use of cut and paste every 5 comments.

    A friend gave their pet rat away when they moved, effictively putting it in someones else house. Was that unethical?

    I’m not sure ethically, which has the greatest right to exist, but as a human I’d put humans first. If something truely is a pest (in a damaging way to humans and not just inconvience manor) than I guess moving it to other human inhabited areas, isn’t helpful ethically or otherwise (how far can they migrate?).

    Given a house mouse can’t survive anywhere but in a house, but we can’t kill them and assuming the capturing method is fine what do we MAKE out of these mice? Maybe little wheels they can run on to generate power for their hosts? Or is that slave labour?

    I don’t really have a problem with mice. How about something like this for spiders? don’t think there’s anything legal or ethical about relocating them is there?

    1. zof says:

      teach them to row a small boat so you can generate electricity for your computer… I heard it might take 8 month to train a chubby one to say row though….

  24. jebu5 says:

    Relocating a mouse you catch in your house is functionally equivalent to putting it in someone else’s house. Are you really arguing that’s an ethical course of action?

    Bah now i’ve caught the cut and paste disease!

    Can someone build a verion to capture Pierce Nichols’s?

  25. ameyring says:

    Here’s a thought – if you trap it live and don’t really want to release it where it can enter someone else’s house and can’t bear to kill it, just throw it in a river if you live near one. Depending on the river, it’ll die on its own or be eaten by something, otherwise come out far downstream.

  26. kjunkinsKen says:

    Hmm, great idea. Now I have an easy way of providing live food to my pet Red Tailed Hawk!

  27. kaloric says:

    Even better than making the vac a water trap would be to rig the vac up inside a little freezer.

    Hypothermia is a gentler way to go than drowning, and maybe the carcasses could be given to a friend who has reptiles willing to eat dead things.

    For those thinking snap traps are painless and humane, I’m thinking you’ve never used snap traps. A fair percentage of the time, they don’t kill cleanly; I’ve seen a number of occurrences where they just hit the mouse in the hind legs or lower back, smashing its spine but leaving it very much alive to flail around in pain until it dies of shock, exhaustion, dehydration, or whatever. Poisons are inhumane because of the collateral damage, either poisoning other animals directly or indirectly if they happen to eat that dead or dying mouse.

    Anyway, this idea ranks right up there with the awesome motion-sensing cat sprayer an Aussie made.

  28. Dave says:

    You could always relocate them to a friends pet snake’s quarters. Do a Google search for “feeder mice”.

  29. Jim says:

    I’m surprised no-one has thought of the mouse going deaf.
    Shop Vacs are loud, even louder on the inside I would imagine. A mouse has sensitive ears. Put two together and this becomes non-ethical very fast.

    Stick with the ruler on the edge of the table and bucket underneath. Safe, fast and everyone gets to walk away happy.

  30. Londoner says:

    I find most peoples commitment to ‘ethical’ begins to evaporate around about the fifth mouse they’ve caught spoiling an entire bag of pasta for the sake of a light snack; by the tenth, the novelty of enjoying the company of their cute furry little friends has gone, and by the twentieth has been replaced by a sense of vengeance and a questioning of why the vile little slices of furry evil exist at all.

    I’m now on number 782 in six years and my thoughts on ethics are more directed at my wider neighbours who seem so thoroughly disinterested in being part of getting rid of the problem. We live in a flat in a converted Victorian house that is part of a row of terraced houses; just chock full of mouse friendly nooks and crannies. This is a problem the world over in cities; one house gets them, sooner or later so does everyone else. Those of my neighbours who take a live and let live so-called ‘ethical’ standpoint or who don’t see the problem so it can’t be anything to do with them are the ones who really lack the ethics.

    We have eleven different types of traps for a total of 60 traps (no vacuum cleaners – nice idea!) and for my money the snap traps are the best by far; quick and usually clean – quite ethical in my book.

    If the mice were a bit smarter, they’d keep to the dark corners behind the walls and be a lot cleaner in their habits. We’d be happy to feed them if they’d leave our food alone, we could pass the time of day occasionally, maybe watch Tom & Jerry together every now and then if they’d bathe a bit more often.

    But mice are what they are, so it’s Total War to the bitter end, and the only ones who should feel guilty are those taking the ethical approach.

  31. Larry Holm says:

    You wouldn’t have to worry about the dogs or kids getting snapped by a trap.
    It’s a simple idea. I think you guys are missing the point. You can keep the mouse as a pet or feed it to your pet. First you have to catch the mouse, before you can decide what to do with it. This Shop-Vac Motion Sensor Mouse Catcher Attachment will catch the mouse.
    So who’s going to take the bait and make one for themselves? Make it better.

  32. Signify says:

    I used a regular vacuum cleaner hose to suck up a mouse – it had turned just in time – hurriedly took the heavy old vacuum cleaner outside, and yes – the mouse scooted back out of the hose, unharmed. Too unwieldy, it’s time to buy a mini shop vac for what promises to be a heavy mouse fall and winter in this very old house. Didn’t know they made them. Thanks for the article.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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